Task Force Says Lawyers' Pro Bono Work Should Be For Free, Not For Credit

Jul 18, 2014

The panel says lawyers should do pro bono work because it's worthwhile, not because they're getting some other form of compensation.
Credit Joe Gratz / https://www.flickr.com/photos/joegratz/117048243

A panel investigating Indiana’s pro bono legal system says lawyers shouldn’t be rewarded with continuing education credits for providing free and low-cost legal services to Hoosiers in need.  

Chief Justice Brent Dickson mentioned the need to boost pro bono efforts in his 2013 State of the Judiciary address, his first as Chief Justice. 

In his address this year, he talked about the results of a study that examined civil law cases in the state.

“Considering all civil cases, 63-percent of the parties were not represented by a lawyer," Dickson says. "And in family law cases alone, 60-percent of the litigants did not have a lawyer.”

Dickson has talked about offering continuing education, or CLE credit hours, for lawyers that do pro bono work.  Lawyers must earn a certain number of hours each year. 

But the Pro Bono Reporting Task Force, created at Dickson’s urging, says pro bono work and CLE hours should be kept separate, noting that one shouldn’t be viewed as more valuable than the other. 

The task force’s report also warns against disclosing the amount of pro bono done by individual lawyers, saying that publicly “shaming” lawyers only accounts for a temporary increase and doesn’t help in the long term. 

It does recommend making the process for reporting pro bono hours easier, as well as clarifying what does and does not count as pro bono work.